Game Preview: SMU vs. TCU

Patrick previews the Battle for the Iron Skillet between SMU and TCU!

The Battle for the Iron Skillet returns to Dallas when SMU (0-3) takes on archrival Texas Christian Univeristy (2-0). SMU looks to snap a two-game skid in the series and get its first win of the year.

WHEN: Saturday, September 27, 2014. Kickoff is at 11:00 AM CT

WHERE: Ford Stadium, Dallas, Texas

TV/RADIO: CBS Sports Network, KTCK 1310 AM/96.7 FM, The Ticket

SERIES: TCU leads 46-40-7 (SMU leads 22-20-2 in Dallas)

LAST MEETING: TCU won 48-17 on September 28, 2013 at Amon Carter Stadium

PONY TRENDS: SMU suffered another blowout loss, this time at the hands of Texas A&M. But the Mustangs’ offense finally showed signs of life when Garrett Krstich stepped in at quarterback. Krstich replaced a struggling Kolney Cassel after one quarter and guided the Mustangs to 249 yards, including a 15-play drive that brought SMU into the red zone for the first time all season. Kristch’s solid play earned him the start against TCU. It will be his first career start.

Sacks were still a problem for SMU. The Mustangs allowed eight of them, bringing the total to 20 through three games. But Mason thought the offensive line played its best game of the year. Many of the sacks were coverage sacks where the quarterback held the ball too long. The line opened some holes in the running game, allowing for SMU to rush for 102 yards.

SMU’s biggest weakness against A&M was tackling. SMU Interim Head Coach Tom Mason said the staff reviewed the tape and counted 31 missed tackles. The Aggies capitalized on the missed tackles and made big plays out of them.

Kevin Pope had his best game of the year, rushing for 44 yards on 11 carries, none of which went for negative yardage. Der’rikk Thompson had 72 receiving yards, 53 of which came on a perfectly thrown ball from Krstich on a fade route. True freshman Courtland Sutton made his season debut, snagging two catches for 27 yards. The 6-foot-3 Sutton will likely see more time against TCU.

OPPONENT STRENGTHS: TCU has dominated both of its games, albeit against lower-level teams. The Horned Frogs are coming off a bye week, but beat Minnesota 30-7 the week before. In their two games, the Frogs have totaled 78 points while allowing only 21.

The Horned Frogs’ best offensive weapon, junior quarterback Trevone Boykin, is off to a fast start as well. In two games, he has completed 64.4% of his passes for 578 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 121 yards and one touchdown.

Defensive end Devonte Fields, the Big 12’s preseason defensive player of the year, was dismissed from the team after allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend. But TCU has survived without him. The Frogs bring relentless pressure and are talented and deep along the defensive line. Defensive tackles Davion Pierson and Chucky Hunter anchor the run defense, and Paul Dawson is a rangy linebacker who plays every down.

Outside of 6-foot-4 Josh Doctson, TCU does not have big receivers. But the Frogs have great athletes at the skill positions, and they love to get them the ball in space, using lots of screens, tosses and pitches. Deante’ Gray is TCU’s version of Darren Sproles. He returns kicks and punts, and lines up all over the formation on offense. He will be the fastest player on the field on either team.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: QB Trevone Boykin vs. SMU’s front seven. Boykin is a converted wide receiver who has started to grow into the quarterback position. He is a dual-threat guy, but he has become more comfortable throwing from the pocket. But overall, he is an average pocket passer who has been prone to sacks and bad decisions. SMU’s front seven must show gap discipline and keep him in the pocket and force him to throw from there.

KEYS TO THE GAME: If the Mustangs want to fry the Froggies, they need to put pressure on Boykin while keeping him in the pocket. The Mustangs will be able to slow TCU’s offense by getting sacks and forcing turnovers if Boykin is uncomfortable. SMU’s tackling must also improve, or TCU’s athletes will have a field day like A&M’s did. Lastly, Garrett Krstich needs to be able to deliver throws while facing TCU’s pressure. A few times against A&M, he took off running when he did not need to. He needs to step up into the pocket and throw a strike instead of scramble when he feels pressure.

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